2021 Volunteers of the Year: Joli & Adam
December 28, 2021
YWCA Minneapolis is proud to present our 2021 Volunteers of the Year! Each year, we celebrate this distinction to highlight a special person whose exceptional dedication and service have advanced our mission. This year, we are delighted to recognize two incredible volunteers: Joli Shamblott and Adam Gruenewald.
How did you first get involved with YWCA Minneapolis?
Joli: Social responsibility has been an important part of my life since the age of 14. I moved to Minneapolis a few years back and had been trying to find my next volunteer opportunity. The murder of George Floyd and the pandemic led me to explore my employer’s social responsibility page. YWCA’s Resource Hub was one opportunity listed there.
I ended up signing up for a few days and I became a regular volunteer. Unfortunately, the Resource Hub was no longer sustainable so the distribution services ended, but it created a new space in my life to stay involved and look for other ways to support YWCA Minneapolis.
Adam: I was first introduced to YWCA Minneapolis when I was a high school student at Minneapolis South and growing up in the neighborhood. That awareness has expanded over time and jumped up several levels when I volunteered in July 2020 with coworkers from Thomson Reuters. I became quite active with YWCA Minneapolis during COVID-19 and helped out a lot with preparing and distributing food and hygiene kits on a weekly basis. I can’t underestimate how much the weekly distribution efforts helped my own mental and physical well-being during COVID-19 as I networked with fellow volunteers with YWCA Minneapolis and became a key contributor to the ongoing effort.
What types of projects or events did you work on?
Joli: My role included supporting Minneapolis neighborhoods by distributing hygiene products along with fresh food. The role was exactly what I was looking for: being engaged with the community and supplying the basics of hygiene supplies and food for someone. I have always embraced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that states that empowering people with food and personal dignity can help people rise to achieve their goals.
I loved the experience on my first day volunteering with the Resource Hub. I was put at a door to aid community members who needed to use the restroom. Who’d have thought that would be so fulfilling?! I loved the interaction with the community. I knew then that I needed to make sure that I was right there with the community each Saturday.
Adam: While the food and hygiene kit distribution program has now concluded, I have continued volunteering with the YWCA Minneapolis as an engagement volunteer. In that role I have assisted in some of the behind-the-scenes efforts of a variety of different events, including the COVID-19 community vaccination effort, the Race Again Racism 5K and It’s Time to Talk. I enjoy working with YWCA employees, Nina Salah and Rachael Weiker, as well as other fellow volunteers like Elizabeth Bennets and others.
How do you feel about the experience of volunteering with YWCA?
Joli: Every day I drove home from a busy day I felt so good mentally and physically. It filled my cup to take on the next week until I could come back and do it all over again. This experience with the Resource Hub showed me the dynamics of how a pandemic and systemic racism can affect marginalized communities. It also showed me how much one community group can reach hundreds of people each week.
Adam: Volunteering with YWCA Minneapolis was one of the best decisions I made and definitely one of the key changes in my life during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to giving back to the community, I find myself learning more about myself and connecting with others. Plus, these activities are a lot of fun and a great way to spend my free time.
What would you tell someone who is considering getting more involved at YWCA?
Joli: I experienced more than just a volunteer opportunity but met a great, supportive community within YWCA Minneapolis. I have shared my experience with many others and am hoping that they too will find all that I found through YWCA Minneapolis and take the next step within their journey.
Adam: Not only is it a good way to give back to different organizations, but it also gives you a chance to expand your perspectives. There are plenty of different opportunities out there, whether it is helping plan events, showcasing different skills on the day of an event or even being a facilitator at It’s Time to Talk. Be sure to take advantage of the variety of volunteer opportunities offered by YWCA Minneapolis and see how it could impact not only you but the lives of others.
Thank you, Joli and Adam! Your commitment to YWCA’s mission is inspirational and we are appreciative of your extraordinary service. Congratulations and keep up the amazing work!